https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11088931/124million-Chelsea-property-fraud-trial-involving-Vatican-heard-English-courts.html

Vatican will face UK trial for the first time in history: £124million Chelsea property fraud trial involving Pope Francis’s former right-hand man will be heard in English courts

  • Briton Raffaele Minicione and 10 others face criminal charges in Vatican City 
  • Mr Minicione is accused of charges including fraud and abuse of power 
  • This is the first time the Vatican will face a UK court in its 2,000 year history
  • It has been embroiled in a corruption scandal involving top officials since 2019 

The Vatican is to face trial in English Courts for the first time in its 2,000 year history after it failed to prevent UK judges from probing a £124 million investment property deal it made with a British financier.

Raffaele Minicione, who holds both British and Swiss citizenship, was previously a financial advisor to the Secretariat in the Vatican, who personally advises the Pope and assists him with carrying out his duties.

He is accused by the Vatican of 10 criminal charges, including fraud, embezzlement and abuse of office dating back to 2014.

The Vatican state alleged he inflated the price of a property, 60 Sloane Avenue, when his companies sold it to the Vatican in 2018. 

The property was sold by the Vatican on July 1 for £186 million, which represents a loss for them of around £140 million, insiders say. 

But Mr Minicione denies the allegations and stands by the property valuation which he says was provided by independent experts. He also says the Vatican has provided no evidence of his alleged wrongdoings or of its monetary loss.

Mr Minicione wants to bring civil action in the UK in order to counter publicity and protect his reputation, court documents show. 

Vatican lawyers argued that any UK hearing could interfere with criminal proceedings and ‘legitimate acts of a foreign state’. 

But Mr Minicione has now won a significant victory in the Court of Appeal, which has agreed that English courts have the right to examine a property transaction and rule whether he and his company, WRM, acted in good faith. 

Raffaele Minicione (pictured in 2017), holds both British and Swiss citizenship. He was previously a financial advisor to the Secretariat in the Vatican, but is now facing 10 criminal charges

60 Sloane Avenue in London, which is the focus of the English court battle brought by Mr Minicione

60 Sloane Avenue in London, which is the focus of the English court battle brought by Mr Minicione

The matters in the English courts only pertain to this property sale, but the charges brought against Mr Minicione are far wider in nature. 

The Court of Appeal heard the case after the High Court previously granted a stay on the case, and reached its judgement on July 26. 

Representatives for the Vatican began criminal proceedings against Mr Mincione after buying the property, as it claimed that ‘corruption’ of officials led to the state paying ‘a substantial overpayment’ in its purchase of the building.

They added that the surplus money was ‘diverted to the personal use of Mr Minicione and his associates.’ 

In February of this year he and 10 others were indicted on charges by the Vatican’s legal system. 

Pope Francis is said to have been personally involved in the investigation, even permitting secret bugs to be placed in officials’ offices and phones, The Telegraph reports.

The parties’ dispute has been over whether the case in the English courts can go ahead while criminal investigations are underway in the Vatican.

The Vatican indicted 11 people on charges ranging from fraud and embezzlement to abuse of office in February of this year

The Vatican indicted 11 people on charges ranging from fraud and embezzlement to abuse of office in February of this year

During its investigation, the state has conducted a search of the Secretariat’s offices in 2019, as well as sacking senior officials.

The Court of Appeal found that any English civil case would not interfere with criminal proceedings in Vatican City.

The judgment, handed down by Lord Justice Jackson, Lord Justice Males and Lord Justice Birss, recognised that Mr Mincione had a ‘genuine wish to obtain public vindication’ and agreed that he had a ‘justiciable’ claim in the UK courts.

It is thought the case marks the first time the Vatican will appear before the UK courts. 

The Catholic enclave, which spans 121 acres in the centre of Rome, often avoids legal action in foreign jurisdictions by claiming state immunity.

It is unknown who will appear in court for the Vatican, but it is likely to involve senior officials. 

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